It’s not just the cars that move quickly – the firm’s processes are at the vanguard of new technology
According to Forrester Research, the robotic process automation (RPA) market is predicted to hit $2.9bn by 2021, a staggering increase from $250m in 2016. With Genpact asserting that more than 70% of business processes – including invoice processing, contract compliance and document processing – can be automated using software robots, the potential for procurement is clear.
At automotive manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover, the purchasing team is realising significant benefits from the implementation of digital tools across a number of key processes, leveraging the growing sophistication of RPA, which has evolved in recent years and can now tackle more complex processes.
While the technology is important, it’s a clear understanding of the processes themselves that is critical, says purchasing transformation and operations director Richard Harding. “I have a team of lean process improvement specialists who understand our processes to a fine level of detail. Their starting point is how we can eliminate any non-value-add work. We don’t want to automate inefficiency. Only when this is done do we see where we can use RPA.”
After completing a market evaluation of RPA providers, the team decided to go with technology provider Blue Prism. Processes including contract cost change and invoice reconciliation have all so far benefited from the deployment of RPA technology. To identify which parts can be automated, a process is broken down into specific steps. So, within an eight-step process, it may be that steps two to four and six to seven can be automated, while steps one, five and eight remain manual.
“Typically it will take a 12-week implementation period to fully deploy a robot within a process,” says Rob Kesterton, the senior manager responsible for business optimisation. “We make sure the business case is rock solid. As a team we have a task of a 5:1 return on investment year-on-year.”
The purchasing team has now implemented 20 robots and is taking the lead in an organisation-wide programme to implement another 80 over the next 12 months. External benchmarks say that having a total of 100 robots places a business in the top 1% of organisations for RPA deployment.
“I’m interested in the transformative impact of this technology,” says Harding. “Automation is giving us the ability to remove repeatable transactional activities. The response from internal stakeholders has been positive, enabling us to both create efficiencies and make this a great place to work.”
Value of automation
The value of using robots is multifaceted, Jaguar Land Rover has found. Primarily value is realised through greater efficiency and productivity, but there are also benefits to be found in delivering a faster, higher quality customer service. A key part of the business case is achieved through the ‘liberation of capacity’, enabling the team to deliver more value as routine tasks get taken over by RPA. Ensuring compliance and adherence to ethics and CSR policy is another benefit. RPA technology ensures 100% compliance, and effectively removes the need for manual checks and balances as the robot can be relied on to always do the right thing, once it is trained to do so.